Have you ever had days where your jaw hurt right at the joints whenever you talked or chewed? This may be a temporary thing, or it may happen on a regular basis. If this is happening to you, you might be suffering from TMJ pain.
What is TMJ Pain?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull, and it is the part of your head that is responsible for moving your jaw around so you can do things like chew and speak. Like any other joint in your body, your TMJ is susceptible to wear, tear, and pain. TMJ pain is the pain you feel in that area, but it can sometimes refer to disorders that affect the muscles in your jaw.
Causes and Symptoms
No one knows for sure what causes TMJ pain, even though there have been many studies trying to find a specific cause. Some dentists think that TMJ pain arises from problems in the muscles that control the jaw, and some think that the cause is found in the parts of the joint. Sometimes, trauma to your jaw and surrounding areas can lead to TMJ pain.
More common causes seem to revolve around relatively normal circumstances such as these:
- Clenching and grinding your teeth
- Soft disc movement between the joint’s ball and socket
Jaw pain may seem like nothing out of the ordinary, but there are symptoms to look for when considering if you have TMJ pain. Knowing is half the battle, and learning what these symptoms are can help you easily identify if you are suffering from this joint disorder. TMJ pain most commonly affects adults between 20 and 40, and it affects women more than men. Some of the most common symptoms include things like:
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- Any sort of popping, clicking, or grating sounds in your jaw when you open and close your mouth
- A constant tired feeling in your face
- Discomfort while you chew or speak
- Jaw locked in either an open or closed position
- Headaches and earaches
If you find yourself suffering from one or several of these symptoms, see your dentist as soon as possible. Several treatments exist that can help you relieve this pain.
Giving Yourself Some Pain Relief
The level of TMJ pain can vary with each individual. For someone else, it might be a simple annoyance, but for you it may be a severe pain that disrupts your daily life. Either way, you’ll suffer through the pain unless you find a way to relieve it.
There are a ton of ways you can relieve your pain, ranging from at-home remedies to professional help. Fortunately, most pain can be relieved at home with exercises and prevention techniques. It’s also nice to know that TMJ pain will often resolve itself within a few weeks or months without needing serious treatment.
If you know you suffer from TMJ pain on a regular basis, you should learn how to prevent it from coming back instead of just dealing with it when it comes around again. Try things like sleeping on your side with proper support between your neck and shoulder or adopting a diet of softer foods. Try to avoid chewing gum or clenching your jaw.
Sometimes prevention doesn’t work, or the stress of life just makes you forget to prevent the pain from coming on. When this happens, you can do things like practice relaxation techniques and jaw exercises. Jaw exercises often include slowly opening and closing your mouth in order to loosen up your jaw muscles. You can also ice your jaw to help with swelling or using a warm and moist towel to relieve pain.
Ask Your Dentist
If nothing is working for you, you may want to schedule a visit with your dentist. No one knows your mouth better than your dentist, and he or she can help you find better ways to relieve yourself of TMJ pain. Sometimes there are more serious issues underlying the pain, and your dentist can help you resolve those so you can get back to living your life without TMJ pain.